The University of Southampton

Southampton personal respirator rolled out across country to protect NHS frontline staff

Published: 29 January 2021
The PeRSo respirator in use at University Hospital Southampton.

A protective respirator created by researchers at the University of Southampton is now being used by healthcare staff in over 20 NHS trusts around the country.

Over 10,000 respirators have been provided to trusts from the south of England to Scotland after it received approval from the Health and Safety Executive for use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Experts in Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) worked with engineers, medical staff and industry partners to rapidly develop the Personal Respirator Southampton, known as PeRSo, which consists of a fabric hood for the wearer's head and a plastic visor to protect their face.

The small portable unit delivers clean air through a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter with belt-mounted fan pack and can be worn throughout a long shift and reused after appropriate cleaning.

The multidisciplinary team was co-led by ECS’s Professor Hywel Morgan and respiratory medicine expert Professor Paul Elkington, who both were awarded MBEs for their work in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

The respirator has also been honoured by the Royal Academy of Engineering with a President’s Special Award for Pandemic Service.

Dr Ric Gillams, a Research Fellow in ECS’s Biomedical Electronics Research Group, says: “I felt very helpless in the early days of the pandemic and so I was delighted to be part of the PeRSo team. We had a lot of support from across the University, from Southampton General Hospital and from a large number of companies around the UK.

“The pressure on healthcare workers is now even greater than it was in the first wave of the pandemic and the feedback from PeRSo users has been very positive. It is very rewarding to see the respirators in action and to have made a contribution to the safety of those working on the frontline treating patients with COVID-19.”

As the country went into the first lockdown in March 2020, a collaboration of University engineers, clinicians at University Hospital Southampton and industry partners including McLaren, Kemp Sails and INDO Lighting came together to develop PeRSo. In just one week, this partnership turned an idea into a prototype which was then tested on wards and manufactured at scale by INDO Lighting in less than a month.

Dr Becky Eggleston, a doctor on the general intensive care unit at University Hospital Southampton, says: “We are extremely grateful for all the work that the team has put into producing the PeRSo hoods. They are much more comfortable than alternative PPE, which makes a huge difference to us during our long shifts.

“Being able to see each other's faces makes it easier for our team to communicate, and knowing that patients take comfort from being able to see the faces of the people looking after them is a boost to morale.”

Read the full story on the main news page.

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